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‘Magic’ Megaphone Automatically Translates Speech into Various Languages

To help Japanese companies better deal with the increasing number of foreigners visiting the country, Panasonic has created an innovative megaphone capable of automatically translating Japanese into English, Chinese and Korean.

Remember that cool universal translator the crew of the Enterprise used to break down language barriers with alien species? Such technology is not yet available in real life, but if Panasonic’s ‘Megahonyaku’ is a sign of things to come, that universal translator doesn’t seem so sci-fi anymore. Megahonyaku is a pun on the Japanese words for ‘megaphone’ and ‘translate’, which actually makes a lot of sense because it’s a megaphone that can translate Japanese into several other languages in real time. When a user speaks Japanese into the megaphone, it recognizes and translates what is being said instantly, and outputs the phrase in English, Chinese or Korean.

It sounds amazing, and seeing it in action is pretty impressive, but Megahonyaku has limitations. It cannot translate everything you say, as it only comes pre-loaded with 300 common phrases, like “The train has been delayed” or “Watch your step,” which a Panasonic official said the device can “almost certainly” recognize even if they are not spoken word for word. However, the jaoanese company behind Megahonyaku promises to a dd new phrases regularly, which users can download via the internet.

The device was designed to be used in places like transport stations, airports and tourist destinations, where speedy and accurate announcement are needed most. Around 30 Japanese organizations, including police and train operators, have been using Megahonyaku on a trial basis since 2015, but Panasonic will officially launch the device Dec. 20. If you’re hoping to get your hand on one, don’t hold your breath. Instead of selling these portable speech translator, the Japanese company plans on renting them out for less than ¥20,000 ($183) a month on a three-year contract, and offering clients future updates and maintenance.

 

Panasonic has also announced that it may add support for other languages, like Russian, depending on clients’ needs. Megahonyaku also features a touchscreen that allows users to select the language they need their speech translated into.

via Japan Times

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